When I watch San Francisco 49ers safety Marcell Harris, I forget how young and inexperienced he is. At times, it shows. Other times, Harris looks like a player you feel comfortable playing extended snaps. Harris was up and down in spot duty during 2019, and that’s to be expected from someone drafted in 2018. Harris played 340 snaps last year while starting four games in December. He didn’t start against the Ravens, but Harris’s most notable play of the season came when he forced a fumble as Baltimore was driving.
Fourth and Nine’s Eric Crocker did a great job in this thread breaking down Harris. With Harris, being aggressive against the run isn’t an issue. Being overly aggressive and leaving his feet was. Harris missed seven tackles in 340 snaps. Compare that to Jimmie Ward’s four in 819 snaps, or Jaquiski Tartt’s five in 689 snaps, and that gives you an idea of where Harris must improve. Sometimes you’d see Harris not trust what he saw, whether in the passing game or when filling against the run, and that caused Harris to play slower than he should. In man coverage, Harris tends to get a bit grabby. He plays like a player that hasn’t played a ton of man coverage.
There are plenty of positive traits Harris brings to the table, and they all fit in well with what the Niners want to do on defense. In the robber, ‘eraser’ role, Tartt is at his best in coverage. He can sit on routes, jump them, and get into throwing lanes. Also, he will hit you, and you will fell it. Harris had 17 stops, four fewer than Tartt, and five pass breakups, three more than Tartt. Harris is active.
Weight: 208 pounds
Age: 26 (turned on June 9)
Experience: Two accrued seasons
Harris signed a four-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers worth $2,626,300 on May 11, 2018. Harris received a $166,300 signing bonus. Harris was the 184th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. His cap number is $750,000 for 2020, though none of that is guaranteed.
Odds on making the roster in 2020
The safety group will have a few new faces as training camp approaches. Harris isn’t a lock as he was a sixth-rounder. That doesn’t mean he’s easy to replace, either. Harris will need to outperform UDFA’s Jared Mayden and DeMarkus Acy. Harris also plays all special teams units for the 49ers. He was one of the better 49ers on special teams last year, so the rookies will need to show they can help on both defense and special teams. With no preseason, that will prove to be difficult.
What to expect in 2020
Harris is an ideal backup. He has to improve his “eye discipline.” The Saints game was on your mind when Harris missed a tackle that led to a touchdown. That play sums up where Harris needs to improve. He had one threat as the deep safety; he saw the route develop. There was a slight hesitation, and that allowed the pass to be completed. Those types of plays happen. Now, you have to finish. Harris didn’t, and next thing you know, touchdown.
When Harris wasn’t playing as the deep safety, he was quite good. In underneath coverage, he’s a lot better than fans realize. The issue is the 49ers like their safeties to be interchangeable with how often offenses motion, so Harris must improve his deep coverage if he’s going to see the field extensively this year.
Harris can play. He attacks the line of scrimmage like a heat-seeking missile, but he fared well in limited targets. Harris has plenty of tools to work with, and if he continues to progress as a player, the 49ers may not need to spend big next offseason at safety if they cannot bring Tartt back.